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JAN. 8 ANNIVERSARY: Response to tragedy says a lot about Tucson community

Updated: Jan. 8, 2021 at 4:41 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - As they had for three decades, the Bowmans stopped by a Tucson Safeway on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011.

The parking lot was full for a Congress on your Corner event with Gabby Giffords.

As the Bowmans were bagging brussels sprouts and deciding whether to stop and meet Giffords, they heard several shots ring out.

“I was born on a ranch, so I I know what gunshots are,” David Bowman said. “They weren’t firecrackers. I turned to Nancy and said, ‘let’s go.’”

Nancy Bowman, David’s wife, said she knew something was wrong.

“Then the screaming started, ‘they shot her they shot her, they shot Gabby Giffords,” Nancy said.

That’s when David, a doctor, and Nancy, a nurse, dove into action.

“I started doing mouth to mouth resuscitation and trying to breathe some life into someone who was taking their last breaths,” Nancy said.

That victim was federal judge John Roll who, despite Nancy’s best efforts, was one of six who died.

Nancy has dedicated her life to making the world safer in their honor.

“I’ve gone through all the stages of being horrified to profoundly sad to being angry and now to being resolved that we’re going to make some changes in honor of those six people who died on that sidewalk.,” she said.

Northwest Fire Division Chief Brian Keeley responded that day. He said he will never forget the victims, their families or the people like the Bowmans, whose first instinct was to help.

“It was my job to respond to that scene,” Keely said. “I signed up for that, we all signed up for it. But the folks who were in the parking lot and rendered aid immediately - that speaks to human nature and what people are capable of and it makes a huge difference.”

On the scene, police and fire departments worked seamlessly. Keeley said he was tasked with deciding who needed to go to trauma care first.

“Frankly, there wasn’t enough time for emotion,” he said. “It’s simply, get to work.”

Quick response and calm determination.

First responders who’d been on the front lines - culminated on this backyard battle field to save lives.

A decade later, as we face new fights we couldn’t have imagined, Keeley said we learned something about ourselves and our community.

“We are stronger than we think,” he said. “As a community, we are stronger than we are even as individuals.”

It is that strength that leads Nancy and Jim to place flowers at an understated memorial outside their grocery store every week. It is also the strength that makes this Tucson native love her city even more.

“Because it’s not just the story of a tragedy,” Nancy said. “It’s the story of a community and how they came together and embraced each other.”

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